“What shall a man desire more than this?” A Darwin-Day Post

Charles Darwin, photographed by Julia Margaret...
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None have fought better, and none have been more fortunate than Charles Darwin. He found a great truth, trodden underfoot, reviled by bigots, and ridiculed by all the world; he lived long enough to see it, chiefly by his own efforts, irrefragably established in science, inseparably incorporated with the common thoughts of men. . . . What shall a man desire more than this?[1]

These words by T.H. Huxley still ring true today, in spite of the ignorance that continues to demand that superstition be given precedence over the fact of evolution. The accomplishments of Darwin, after all these years, are nothing short of a pain in the backsides of religious fundamentalists who want to find ways to insert their religious doctrine and superstition into public schools.

But we shouldn’t lose sight of Darwin’s accomplishments and contributions to so many disciplines of science. So I thought I’d offer an additional quote -a passage from The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals which appeals to me as an anthropologist:

Our early progenitors, when indignant or moderately angry, would not have held their heads erect, opened their chests, squared their shoulders, and clenched their fists, until they had acquired the ordinary carriage and upright attitude of man, and had learnt to fight with their fists or clubs Until this period had arrived the antithetical gesture of shrugging the shoulders, as a sign of impotence or of patience, would not have been developed. From the same reason astonishment would not then have been expressed by raising the arms with open hands and extended fingers. Nor, judging from the actions of monkeys would astonishment have been exhibited by a widely opened mouth; but the eyes would have been opened and the eyebrows arched. Disgust would have been shown at a very early period by movements round the mouth, like those of vomiting,–that is, if the view which I have suggested respecting the source of the expression is correct, namely, that our progenitors had the power, and used it, of voluntarily and quickly rejecting any food from their stomachs which they disliked. But the more refined manner of showing contempt or disdain, by lowering the eyelids, or turning away the eyes and face, as if the despised person were not worth looking at, would not probably have been acquired until a much later period.[2].

Thank you, Charles Darwin, for your courage, your brilliance, and your fortitude in the face of significant objection.

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References and Notes:
  1. Huxley, Thomas Henry (1882). Charles Darwin. Nature 25, p. 597. []
  2. Darwin, Charles (1872). The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. London: John Murray []